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Mental health and the Corona Virus

You can’t move at the moment without someone mentioning the corona virus (Covid19). It is all over the news, newspaper and of course, social media. As with any big news story there are some who are being very flippant and making jokes about it and others who are panicking. 

I’m no expert in this virus but what I do know is that there is a lot of fear in the world at the moment. It is particularly affecting those most vulnerable. I have heard children talking to each other, terrified they are going to die, the elderly concerned because they are scared of contracting it but they need to do some shopping. Worst of all, for me are the tales of vital equipment like masks and hand gels being stolen from hospitals. The one place where these items are essential. Unfortunately fear often brings out the worst in people.

Corona Virus

I decided that this was a topic I should cover last night when I learned that the World Health Organisation had declared Covid19 to be a pandemic (meaning an outbreak of a virus or other illness that is worldwide not just localised to one country or region). This has led to more large events being cancelled and travel plans being changed for many. 

There is a lot of information out there about how to protect yourself from the physical symptoms of the virus, but I wanted to talk about the emotional and wellbeing aspects.

How can our mental wellbeing health be affected by corona virus?

We are being told to self isolate if we suspect we may have the virus. This in itself can cause lots of psychological responses. Many people will feel scared of being alone if they are ill, they will worry how they are going to feed themselves, if they are unable to get to the shops what will they eat (hence the panic buying of dried and canned foods). There are also concerns about money for many people. If you are self employed or on a zero hours contract you won’t get paid if you don’t work. Many people are concerned that if schools start to shut in large numbers they will have to take prolonged periods off work. Of course lots of people rely on grandparents for childcare in these circumstances but we know that they may be in a much higher risk category so that may not be an option.

Of course the people most at risk are those already struggling with anxiety and mental health issues. They live in a permanent state of fear and times of additional stress can be terrifying. But even those with relatively good mental health can be suddenly overcome with anxiety at times like this. Particularly if you have any underlying health issues which might be affected by this virus, or maybe you are self employed and worried about the impact on your business.

The importance of staying calm

What we do know though is that you will fight the corona virus, should you come into contact with it, much more efficiently if you are caring for your mental health. It is know scientifically proven that people who meditate regularly and who keep their stress levels lower have a more robust immune system and that all they are much more resistant to any infections and bugs doing the rounds. 

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel because this video by Joe Dispensa covers all the science. It is only around 3 minutes long but it explains perfectly the physiological impact of meditation and mindfulness on our immune system. Please do take the time to watch it and take in what is being said. This is science.

If we stay calm, we keep healthier.

 

How can you help yourself, or others, who may be struggling at this time? 

Stay connected/Check in on them.

It is so simple, but so important to stay connected to the world. Try to stick to your routine as much as possible. Check that others are ok too. Obviously if they are in quarantine you will want to call or text, but just a 5 minute phone call helps someone feel they aren’t alone. Perhaps they need something from the shops. If you are able to go for them you can always arrange to leave things on the doorstep if you are really worried. Be a good friend. Be a good neighbour. Care for each other.  

Stick to reliable sources of information

I tend to work on a need to know basis with anything negative. Obviously this is now starting to impact our lives around the world, but make sure that you are looking for reliable information and guidelines, not Steve on Facebook who knows everything about it (unless it’s medical doctor Steve!). Limit the amount of information you take in because watching every bit of news unfold can definitely induce panic. I would even go as far as saying, distance yourself from people who are scare mongering too. 

Be prepared 

Make sure you have a few essentials in, just in case you do have to self quarantine but please don’t go mad stockpiling. This only causes more panic and affects those who are already most vulnerable to food poverty. If you are living hand to mouth you can’t stock pile food. Make sure you have a few essentials but please, don’t go mad. 

As well as being prepared for quarantine from a food and provisions point of view, think about what you will do if schools are closed due to the corona virus. Make sure you know how you will cope if your children have to be at home for anything from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. You may still be able to go to work but who will look after them?

Consider whether you are able to keep working but from home should you need to. If you are self employed can you use technology to enable to you keep working almost as normal. I know people who are doing meetings virtually and teaching using online tools. Obviously this isn’t possible for all jobs but consider how you could change your work model to minimise disruption.

Take a deep breath

 I know I talk a lot about the importance of breathing when you are anxious or stressed but it really works. If you can just use a very simple breathing technique like 7/11 breathing or finger breathing to help you calm down you will feel better, think more rationally and strengthen your immune system. If you meditate anyway, make sure you are keeping up that practice, we know from the video how beneficial that can be for strengthening your immune system.

Embrace the opportunity to rest

I know it isn’t ideal being ill, and there may be underlying concerns you have about the situation, but if you do have to self quarantine try to embrace the opportunity to rest. Read that book you haven’t had chance to read. Binge watch the series everyone has been talking about. Catch up on sleep. Listen to music. Give your body time to heal.

Most importantly though for now, try to stay calm. Follow the guidelines regarding hand washing etc but make sure you are eating healthily, getting enough sleep and giving your body the best chance to fight the corona virus or any other illness you may be exposed to. 

This will pass but we can all make the process easier and safer by taking care of ourselves and those around us. Let’s choose kindness and compassion over selfishness and greed.

 

For more information about Corona Virus please visit the WHO website.

Staying mindful in a crisis

 

Mindful Grief

Grief is possibly the most paralysing of all emotions. 

When we experience grief it feels as though the world has stopped and everything is moving too quickly, all at the same time.

Physically it can be crippling. The pain we feel when we lose someone we love is not just emotional and psychological. There is a very real chest pain that accompanies this emotion. We know people do die of a broken heart. 

When we are grieving routine and normal life seems to be put on hold. There are a few simple thing you can do to help you cope and move through the depths of grief.

Grief

Often when we lose someone it is those times when we would call them to tell them something, or when we would be spending time together which are the hardest. Writing them a letter to tell them how you are feeling and what is happening, can be very helpful. Perhaps there is something you wish you had said to them but never had chance. Write it down. Some people even start a journal where they write to their loved on whenever they feel the need. The process of writing can be very therapeutic. If you don’t like writing, just talk to them. 

The mistake we often make is to keep busy. There is a lot to do when we first lose a loved one. But, being busy all the time often means that we don’t fully process what has happened.

Taking time to just sit and think about them can be so helpful. Cry, laugh scream, let your emotions out, but take time to acknowledge that your loved one is no longer here and to appreciate the time that you had with them.

This is not an easy thing to do. It hurts, deeply. It feels like you are choosing pain but in the long run it will make the process easier.

Take one day at a time.

It is easy to believe that we should have dealt with this by now. In reality grief never fully leaves us. It is normal to still cry because we miss someone years after their death. 

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Psychiatrist

It’s good. It means that they were someone you really loved. Someone who you wish was still here. Who you would love to be able to see everything you have done in the years since they passed. You may not cry every day. You may not even cry every year any more. But it is normal to still miss them and have these feelings.

Talking to people about how you are feeling is important too. If you are feeling this way, then chances are there are lots of other people feeling just the same way. If you shared a friendship group with the person you have lost, or they are a member of your family, or colleague, there will be other people in that group who are feeling just the same way you are. Talk to them about it. Don’t convince yourself that you will just make them feel sad if you bring the subject up. Often people are relieved when you talk about the person who has passed. I remember a friend of mine from school lost his sister and when I asked him how he was and mentioned her he smiled. He was so grateful that someone had been brave enough to mention her. He felt like everyone had forgotten her already because no-one was talking to him about her anymore.  

Obviously if someone clearly doesn’t want to talk then you must respect their feelings, but there will be someone who does so don’t let that stop you from talking if you feel it will help you.  

Find ways to connect to the person you have lost. Perhaps you always used to do a particular activity together, or you always think of them when you watch a particular programme, don’t avoid those memories, savour them. Perhaps you could create traditions around particular events or anniversaries to help you feel connected.  

When we are overcome with grief it is easy to forget to eat, you may not be sleeping and exercise certainly isn’t top of most people’s to do list. But it is so important to remember to care for yourself. To eat well, to try to sleep when you can and get some fresh air. If you get physically run down your emotions will be even more extreme. Anxiety and depression can really take hold if we don’t care for our physical body at times of emotional distress. 

I am reminded of the Ricky Gervais programme “Afterlife”. In which he is almost kept alive by his dog. If he didn’t have to get up to feed and walk his dog he would definitely have been in a darker place and may even have given up altogether. This programme is a moving but humorous look at grief and may be something to consider watching, depending on where you are in your grieving journey.

The important thing to remember is that grief is a very personal emotion. We all grieve in different ways. Different things will upset us. The important thing is to acknowledge the emotions you are feeling and allow yourself to move through them.

 

If you are struggling with grief I cannot recommend “Good Grief” by Dipti Tait enough. I have known Dipti for over 10 years, she is an amazing hypnotherapist who has gone through the loss of both her parents and is a true expert on grief. I know so many people who have found her book to be a real game changer in coping with their own grief.

Perhaps you would like to learn more about how you can be mindful in simple, every day ways? Have a read of my blog, Everyday mindfulness.

 

Hero or Shero

I keep hearing people talking about  being a hero or shero. I had never heard the word hero until a few months ago. Is it a necessary word?

Before I start this blog I want to make it clear that I believe in equality. I believe men and women are equal, that they have strengths and weaknesses and that for the most part they complement each other. I also believe that throughout time women have been dominated by the patriarchy. Intelligent, opinionated women have been branded as witches, crazy and trouble causers. 

History really has been His-story. 

 

Shero

When we think about the key characters from the past there are very few women.

As a teacher I loved to highlight women in history but they weren’t included in the curriculum when I was teaching.

I have been trying to think how many women I learned about at school, or indeed taught about at school, this is the list I could recall: Boudica, Florence Nightingale, Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Anne Frank and the wives of Henry VIII (who, as anyone who has seen the musical SIX will know, are only famous for being married to a king and we know very little about as women).

I can’t even begin to list all the men we learn about.

Does this mean that women haven’t contributed anything to our advancement? 

Absolutely not. 

The woman pictured above is Hedy Lamarr. She was a beautiful actress. She was also an incredible scientist who developed a radio guidance system without which we may never have developed bluetooth or wifi technologies. She died in 2000 and wasn’t recognised for her contributions to science until she was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2014.

The film “Hidden Figures” highlighted the story of the the female mathematicians and engineers working at NASA in the 1960s without whom the moon landing may never have happened. 

There are countless examples of women having a massive impact but many we are only just learning about now as people sign deep into history to unearth these amazing contributors.

We need to be teaching our children and ourselves, about these key female figures. Young girls need to be shown these role models to help them to see that they can achieve anything boys can. This article from The Guardian in 2017 shows that we may be making headway in the equality stakes but we still have a long way to go. 

We have to show our girls and young women that they have just as many opportunities and they are equal to their male counterparts. However, equality is what I would love to see achieved. I don’t want women to have a greater chance of getting a job, being paid more etc, just to be given the same chances a man would.

Equally I don’t feel that words which are coming into common usage such as “Shero” and “Herstory” are necessary.  I can see how the words hero and history can be seen to be male focused but creating another feminine equivalent seems unnecessary. Let’s just claim the words as our own. The same way we now have actors rather than actors and actresses. Let’s just have heroes and know that women can definitely be heroes. Let’s start discovering more women who had an impact historically. Let’s learn more about people like Anne Boleyn and make them real women with personalities, hopes and dreams, not just “wife of Henry VIII”.

Most importantly, let’s make sure that future history books are filled with women doing amazing things. Women inventing things, changing the world for the better. 

We don’t need men to stop achieving, to step back. We have always been equal in reality. Working together is the answer. Helping each other, supporting each other. Men and women can change the world for the better, together. They can be paid the same amount for doing the same job. They can be given equal opportunities, equal benefits. Men should be able to take extended paternity leave, they should be able to go home if their kids are sent home from school ill, just as women do. It should be up to the individual family to decide who takes on these roles, not some ancient belief. 

The right to choose

It is all about choice. We have to stop shaming women for not being ambitious too. Choosing to stay at home and care for your children is just as challenging and valuable as going out and earning a fortune or inventing something life changing. We all deserve to be happy. To make our own decisions. All we need is for the world to provide equal opportunities for everyone; male, female, old, young, black, white, artistic, scientific…

We are all people. We all have a role to play. We change the world every single day, just by being in it. We impact others every day.

Whether we are heroes because we visit an elderly neighbour, or because we discover a cure to a terrible disease, we are all heroes. Whether you are happy with being a hero or shero. If you like to be an entrepreneur or a mumpreneur. Whether you are happier reading History or Herstory.

Be yourself.

Be the best you that you can be.

Be your own hero or shero but be happy.

 

Be the change

As the new year approaches it is always good to take time to reflect on the change in your life over the previous year. Every new year brings change and we all start to focus on the what we would like to have achieved by the end of the coming year.

There is something in the air as we approach the new year, we are all filled with hope that any challenges we have faced during the previous year will pass and better things lie ahead. It is the perfect time to sit and take stock and check in with our progress towards our dreams and make sure we are still on track.

Those of you who know me will know that I LOVE planning. I love everything about it; the dreaming, the possibilities, the challenge and of course the stationery! But this year I am planning big changes.

Be the change

When it comes to planning I’m old school. 

I like a notebook and pen. I use an electronic diary so that I can sync my diary with my husband. He is also self employed so work routine is not something we understand! Everything else is done on paper. 

I know it’s old school but there is solid scientific evidence that our brains process writing and work on paper differently to the way it processes screens, and it works so much better for me, it’s so much more flexible. Paper also allows your mind to wander and it lets you tap into your unconscious more I find. 

At this time of year I use dotted paper and various pencils and pens to plan. I plan everything I intend to create and achieve in the coming year. I sit and reflect, I breathe deeply and allow my intuition to take over and make sure that everything I plan feels right. It is so important that everything we do adds to our happiness and contentment. If something doesn’t feel right then there is a reason for that. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthy cause, it  certainly doesn’t mean that it is something that shouldn’t be done, but maybe someone else needs to do it. We can’t do everything after all.

 I also like to take the time to look back on everything I have created and achieved over the previous year. This year however, I went a step further and looked back over everything I have achieved over the last 10 years.   

Wow! What a change!    

In 2009 I had a newborn, I was just doing all my Reiki training, I had been self employed as a childminder but hadn’t started any of the work I am doing now. When I stop and look at all the work I have done, both with individuals and schools over the last decade I am genuinely shocked. When 2010 started only a couple of years had passed since my tumour surgery, I was just starting having my injections to control my acromegaly and I had spent most of my recovery pregnant and caring for a baby. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to function fully as a mum let alone run two businesses. 

Why not take a few minutes to think about everything you have achieved over the last decade?  

Grab a notebook or piece of paper and write down everything you have done, holidays you have had, friends you have made, all your professional achievements, all your personal achievements… You will be amazed at everything that has changed over the last decade.  

One thing is for sure. The coming year, and indeed decade, have the power to be whatever you make them. We can decide that this is going to be our best year ever. Why wouldn’t it be? We can get up every morning determined to make the most of every minute. Choose to be kind and thoughtful. Be dedicated to making the world we live in a better place in whatever small way we can. You don’t need to have money to change the world. Maybe you help someone out, pay someone a compliment or just smile at them.

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

Helen Keller

It is so easy to think that it is someone else’s job to make a difference. That someone else will step up.

Why not you? 

Why wait for someone else?

Get out there and do what you have seen needs to be done. If you can’t physically do it yourself raise awareness and encourage others to come together and do it. 

Life is amazing. Make sure you are living every moment. 

 That doesn’t mean that you aren’t allowed to have a pj day under a blanket watching Christmas films, of course you can. No-one can be on duty all the time, even heroes need a day off to recharge their batteries, but I implore you, stop and think about what you can do to make a positive impact on the world this year.

There is so much negativity in the world at the moment, lots of people despairing about decisions that are being made and the way things are being handled by those in power but we need to come together and create a movement of light and positivity. If we do then we are unbeatable. Are you ready to “be the change that you wish to see in the world”(Gandhi)?

If not now then when?

 Write down all the things you would like to change this year in your notebook or on your paper. Whether it is getting more fit, decorating your bedroom, sorting out your finances, maybe volunteering for a local good cause, whatever it is you want to change, write it down and commit to it now!

As another decade passes and I am reminded how much my life has changed, I can only imagine what the next decade will bring.  Honestly, I don’t like looking too far forward. I’m very much a “live in the moment” person. Just knowing that my children will be adults and I will be in my fifties makes me realise that I don’t have time to mess about. This year I am going to make big changes so that I am firmly on the right track for the rest of the decade and I cannot recommend enough that you do too.

ADVANCE – a review

It finally arrived! We finally “ADVANCE”-d in Telford last Monday. After almost two years of planning and dreaming how this event would happen; where, when, what we would cover, it all came together beautifully.

If you have ever organised an event of this scale you will completely understand the amount of work involved in getting something like this from conception to birth but we are all on such a high because it was AMAZING!

Our incredible attendees travelled for hours, stayed over in hotels and had very long days in order to be able to join us but I know from their feedback that they are so glad they did. I think everyone is still buzzing a week on from the incredible energy in the room. We laughed, cried and shifted some big issues together… oh and also ate the best chocolate tart I think I have ever eaten (yes I know I’m not supposed to eat chocolate tart but it was my reward!).

 

We always knew that the day would be powerful (that’s power full – thank you Taz for reminding me of the difference), but I think because we each use our techniques and strategies every day and have done for years we forget the impact that they have when you first discover them.

It’s an interesting thing isn’t it knowledge?

We somehow assume that everyone has the same understanding, the same interpretation, the same talents we do. The more naturally we do something, the more it is part of our life, the more we take it for granted that “everyone does/knows that”.

So often it isn’t true.

There were some really significant light bulb moments for many of the attendees, including us! Yes, we were as excited about the event as anyone. We have known each other for years, we have attended each other’s talks and events, but we know from experience that even when we plan what we are each going to cover that there are always little alleyways from the main path, and without exception there is always a take away from these little meanderings.

Thank you!

We had so much fun and despite the stress of organising such a big event everything went pretty much without issue. This was in part due to my amazing husband, Ian, who stepped in and saved the day several times by correcting issues we were left with my the PA provider (thank goodness he had brought his sound engineer head as well as his videographer head!). Ian you are a star, thank you for all your help with the promotional videos and for coming along and filming the day for us.

An extra special “thank you” also needs to go to Asha Thornton-Clearwater, Taz’s wife, who was incredible introducing the day with style and grace, and she helped us so much with publicising the event. Thanks Asha, I don’t know where we’d be without you on Team ADVANCE.

We would also like to thank Telford Couriers who stepped in and saved the day but delivering the additional food we bought to a local homeless shelter Maninplace. When we originally planned the day we booked it for October but for personal reasons we had to move it later in the year and we knew that that would have an impact on attendance because we were getting so close to Christmas. Because we had booked for larger numbers we still had to pay for the food for the additional number, so we asked the hotel to make that food into packed lunches and Martin from Telford Couriers very kindly offered to collect the food and deliver it for us. Thank you Martin, you are a star.

The biggest thank you of the day has to go to the attendees though. Thank you for coming along, for believing in the power of three and for trusting us enough to be open and vulnerable. You are amazing and I can’t wait to watch your journey now.

It was a truly incredible day, Jo talked about how to stay calm and make sure you clean your wellies. Then I talked about staying calm like a Jedi, Taz showed us how to Unleash our Awesome and then we ended the day with one of my favourite extreme empowerment exercises… a glass walk!

All in all it was a powerful and life changing day.

Do you want to know more and make sure that you are first to find out about the three events we are already planning for 2019? Check out my ADVANCE page or sign up for my newsletter these are going to be such popular events and we’ve learned even more about how we want to make the day MORE powerful and MORE impactful. We are always striving for better and this is going to grow and grow.

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